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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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Faith

Church is for Hurting People

It was a sign I never saw but was the topic of conversation around a dinner table years ago. My friend drove by a local Church and saw the sign along the road and it read, “The Church is for Hurting People.” We wondered if they knew what they said.

Maybe they did. Maybe it was their invite to come. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

Either way you look at it, it is true.

The Church should be a haven, a safe place for hurting people, people down on their luck and exhausted from the rat-race of life however if you have ever been IN the Church, especially in leadership, you’d know, just like I came to find out, the Church hurts people as well.

OH. DOES. IT. 

So I left it. Partially.

I stopped showing up and withdrew my all-in heart and played it safe on the sidelines. Through it, I came to know Jesus more intimately, personally. I discovered “Church” was not just in a building but a group of sister-friends, within my family, on the lake, at home on a day where physical and mental rest was needed.

Church was IN me, whereever I went. Why would I ever need to subject myself to the drama that “Church” brought? Because to be honest, I fell short in Church. Someone was always following Jesus closer and running faster and speaking louder and more freely. Someone else was sitting in the front row instead of corralling in the back and they were NOT holding their heart back or walking in with the baggage I carried. After a while worship seemed to exist for the approval of man and it all seemed like a ridiculous parade of paupers pleading for the attention and approval of a few.

And I don’t do cliques and as a recovery people-pleaser, I felt like it was a weekly trap that made old wounds surface and sting.

The lake or the early Sunday morning run never made my heart ache the way that building did and Jesus spoke clearly and I grew.

Or did I?

Fast forward to Thursday night. Book club and nine of the best ladies I know are gathered around my table and a fellow leader speaks up and bares her heart raw. She is hurt. By Church.

And I think of the marquis sign outside of the Church I never saw.

“The Church is for Hurting People.”

Our book this month was “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown. One of her quotes that stood out to me as my young friend talked was this:

“Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness.”

Often times when we are hurt or we interpret someone else’s actions or comments negatively, especially in regards to WHO WE ARE, we withdraw. “I don’t like how they make me feel. I don’t like how this place makes me feel,” is common, especially in the context of Church and instead of asking ourselves the hard questions, like “Am I being convicted?” or better yet, “What is going on inside of me?” we quickly label it as judgement and walk away.

Door Closed. Heart Closed.

My issue, NOT theirs.

If we do not ask ourselves these hard questions and give ourselves time and space to answer them HONESTLY, we are confined in our hurt which then turns into anger, bitterness and potential hatred.

BUT.

But if we are able to honestly answer and do not take things personally, we can turn our hurt into compassion and learn how to connect with an open heart to make our environment, our Church, better.

Because here is the thing, we need one another and if we want to talk Church, we ARE it.

You + Me = We

And if you don’t show up.

If I don’t.

Then WE all miss out.

Full circle: I got my grown-ass-self into the shower yesterday and went…TO THE BUILDING.

And I can still easily interpret with my cynical eye the show, the parade that is often tainted by my own insecurities, but I had to walk in intentionally posturing my heart to SEE, to HEAR. And I am so glad I did.

I desperately needed and have been longing for something specific. A word from God. I am finding myself at an intersection, a cross roads in life and I need clarity as a I sit in the ashes of my pain. So I sat and I listened and received not just a word but The Word Himself…THROUGH SEVERAL OTHER PEOPLE.

I would have missed out if I did not show up to that building some call Church.

Friends, I get it. I no longer want to be caught in the trappings of religion. I don’t want to show up just in order to say I love Jesus. He is not a pin or some badge that I wear nor is He something I cross off my list. I do not go because I SHOULD. Rituals such as regular attendance…no thanks. I whole heartedly believe there are seasons and sometimes in order to gain perspective, we need to step back in order to step up and see with clarity.

But I am finding those seasons are short. They are not your typical Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall.

WHY?

We NEED one another. We do. The lake can give me a place to breathe and appreciate the glory and splendor of God and I can soak in the sun with a smile and receive some IG worthy revelation that I could share with my picture-perfect cloud that I post but we are made to crave FLESH and BLOOD. 

Life’s Little Lesson is this:

Re-engage. Show up. Wherever you are at, WERE at, there are good people there. Good and needed people who you just don’t need but whom need what in on the inside of Y-O-U. 

Please, for the love. Church is a beautiful thing. It is a beautiful people.

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Woman to Woman 

I sat across the table from her and she, no longer a little girl, is coming into her own. She’s someone’s daughter, though not mine, but I love her as she could be. She begins to cry as our hands find one another across the smooth wood and I whisper to my heart to settle.

She shared the same question that I’ve heard countless times before from many different woman, all different ages, sizes and backgrounds.

“How am I going to get through?”

Even as I ask my heart to settle, it’s the quiet question I’ve been asking myself.

“How?”

You just do.

I am a daughter, a sister, and mother of five, three of which are daughters. I am a friend, a leader and a mentor. It’s a question we all have in common. It’s a thread that binds us together as one. Not one of us is immune regardless of our age or stage in life.

“How am I going to get through?”

Dearest Daughters,

Hard times come. They do not stop though I wish you were immune. You will experience heartache and loss, trials and tribulations. You will be faced with your own brutal and beautiful shortcomings that somehow demand your love and your acceptance. You will be faced with the raw reality of your life, the cards you have been dealt, the choices that you and those around you make. You will be faced with both truth and lies and will have to decide which one you are going to give your power and belief to. You will come face to face with one decision after another…will your thoughts, your feelings and your circumstances define you? Will someone else be able to assign you value? Will they be able to determine your worth?

As much as I don’t want you walking where I have or experiencing the different trials and sufferings that I now are out there, I know you will not be immune to heartache and loss. Though our stories will overlap and they may mirror one another, you are your own person and I am incredibly thankful for it.

“How?”

A very wise man told me yesterday to stop fighting my heartache, and he is right. I’ve been battling not being where I am at and have been trying so hard to keep my heart free of holes. But it has been leaking and I have utilized all my corks trying to keep it all from seeping out and it is exhausting so dear daughter, mourn when you got to mourn, weep when you need to weep. Trust that the Father is with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. Allow Him to take your heart in his hands and perform the needed heart surgery on it to get you through to the further side.

“How am I going to get through?”

With Him.

I think of Hagar who suffered greatly at the jealous hands of Sarah, honest in her heartache. I think of David sitting in the fields, forgotten and alone, bearing his soul to the sheep. I think of how Jesus often went to lonely places to pray. Of how he was rejected in His hometown and how His identity was always in question. I think on these things and my heart unwillingly relates. I understand. But at the Last Supper, John, who often called himself “The disciple that Jesus loved” leaned into Jesus. That picture is in my head not because I have read some Bible story but because it is a posture I am familiar with.

Lean. Times when your heart breaks and you are filled with more questions than there are answers to, lean. When you feel lost and confused, lean. Lean deeply. Allow your pain to be as raw as your love and trust that He will perform the needed surgery on your heart. Dearest Daughters…He is how you fight your battles.

Lean.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

 

 

Making Sense Out of Christmas 

I woke up early this morning and said good-bye to our son. His ninety-six hour leave would come to an end in a few hours and he has to report back for three days before he could venture home again. I hug him and his girlfriend tight and tell them to be safe and that I love them, all the things I’m growing accustomed to saying when we part ways and moments later I crawl back to bed. I don’t have any trouble falling asleep and I wonder if I had truly woken up because sleep comes quickly and the minutes spent saying good-bye now feels like a dream.

I wake up for real several hours later and take the dogs out. The thought of heading to the barn crosses my mind but the thought of hot coffee nags and wins. I resolve to feed my miniature pig Rosie the next time I’m out and walk through the front door. My brain scans the living room that houses an incredibly dead Christmas tree and I begin plotting out my day.

It’s time to make sense out of Christmas.

Needles lace the floor and I almost cannot see the carpet. I’m not really sure what happened because I never missed a beat and was faithful in watering but I apparently missed something somewhere because evidence points to the obvious. It is dead. The tree has got to go…today.

The dog quickly finds a candy cane and then shortly after, a forgotten toy, and I feel as if I never stopped raising toddlers and somewhere between the living room and the coffee pot, I remind myself to go slow and smile because smiling is important.

I get to work.

I start in the kitchen and eventually meander my way back to the living room; sorting, unpackaging…trying to find a place for everything that was recently brought into this home. “Christmas is more than this,” I remind myself. It is more than the gifting and the eating and the cleaning.

But today it feels just like that and I am done.

An hour later, my husband comes into the house and tells me he went out to feed the chickens and found Rosie. She had died sometime between when I fed her yesterday morning and today. At first I have no words. I really don’t even know what to say about a pig I wasn’t supposed to love.

But did.

I think of our barn and how it’s housed calves, chickens, 4-H pigs and now little Rosie. I think of the smell, the cobwebs, the mice and the dirt and I wonder if moving Rosie from our home to the barn a few years was a good move. Did we cut her life short in the transfer? My brain scrambles to make sense and it can’t. Was she old in miniature pigs years? Was I feeding her enough? She was social and here I stuck her in the barn, no longer having room for her in my house. I don’t have answers so I shake my head and resolve to let those thoughts go. It will do no good to sort that out because there is no sorting. My little pig is dead.

The most random of all pictures comes to my head; a feeding trough. It’s one of the dirtiest and foulest things in a barn if not kept clean and I instantly think of how Jesus was laid in one at His birth. I don’t know why I think of this at the same time I think of that little pig, laying cold on the barn floor but I do.

I think of the packages that fill my home and the needles from my dead tree that fill the floor and the list of all the things I want to get done and thoughts of my son still flutter through my head. I look around the kitchen at my husband and kids. They sit, both quiet and compassionate, waiting for me to respond terribly with tears, but I don’t. It would be awkward to cry over a little pig and I do awkward enough. 

This is what I tell myself.

I think in my trying to make sense out of Christmas, I was trying to package Christmas up so I could move forward and get back to life as normal. I wanted to move forward from the gifts. Move forward from the floor laced with needles. Move forward from the busy and the chaos and the goodbyes.

And here all along, Jesus was reaching into me from the barn, reminding me there is no normal to move on to. He was trying to show me what Christmas really is: Love comes in unexpected ways and in unexpected forms. Jesus, the baby in the manager who I now call my closest friend, reminds me to open my heart wide; unbiased and unrestricted. Hours later I give myself permission to cry, even if just for a little and I wonder if the Innkeeper had known who Jesus was if he would have given him more than just the barn, more than just a feeding trough, more than…

So I choose today to not put Christmas away. I choose to stay focused on my family as I walk around the clutter as needles cling to my feet. I choose to allow my heart to relentlessly love who and what it loves, to be surprised when the unexpected stranger knocks on its door and to embrace the unsuspecting.

One thing we should never have to do is apologize for our hearts.

 

To Church or Not to Church

Last Sunday I woke up early and came down stairs. I made a pot of coffee, took the dogs out and found myself standing before the jelly cupboard, reaching for the candle. I wanted to light it but anymore, lighting candles in our home usually means company is coming or the house is occupied for more than just a few hours.

And we did not have company coming.

I felt it in my soul, the need to stay home and it burned in me with an intense longing for a friend you haven’t seen in a very long time. I wanted to stay in my pajamas, to make breakfast and to stroll around in my home all day long at my leisure. I quickly opened the calendar on my phone and looked at the week ahead. This would be the only day where I could be here and every ounce of me needed it because life has grown big and I’m finding if I don’t take care of myself and purposefully slow it all down, I suffer. WE all do.

“Is it ok if we don’t go to Church today?” 

I didn’t think he’d argue and he didn’t so with that, I made my husband and my son breakfast and proceeded to enjoy my day at home to the fullest.

I cooked.

I cleaned.

I watched a movie.

I wrote.

I cooked.

I cleaned.

And I ended it all with a bath.

Glorious.

Years ago, I would have never intentionally skipped Church. If we wern’t there, it’s because one of us was home with the flu and I was afraid if we came, someone would throw up in the middle of the message. I remember having babies and going to Church with a bundle in my arm just days old. Church, to me, was everything. I had to show up and be present; to minister or preach or teach or smile. There was praying to do and love to give. I was always present. Always up front. Always. And now here I am, many years later and far from most of how these things all looked and I see Church in a whole different way.

It’s no longer a place I go to. It’s WHO I am.

With that all being said, the question really isn’t “To Church or not to Church?” The question is, “To Jesus or not to Jesus?”

Am I going to listen to Him? Plain and simple.

When Church is not a place that you go TO, but is WHO you are, you find yourself thinking out of the box about everything. I realize now, Church used to represent a checklist and if I showed up and attended, check. Over the years it’s became more and more relational with the people inside of the building till soon, relationships began to bloom inside AND outside those four walls. Now days if I know my connection level with others is good and Jesus is my focus, I don’t feel the pressure to check Church off my list.

You can’t check something off that is ongoing.

Jesus knows my heart and what I ultimately need most. He knows when I’m taking a short cut or calling it quits or hiding. He knows when I’m physically tired and when I’m mentally exhausted and when I just miss the comforts of my own four walls and need a break from the rat race of life. Seriously friends, especially those of you IN the Church…if getting up on a Sunday morning and going is just something that you DO because it is part of your regular routine…

WHY?

I can’t answer that question for you but I do encourage you to ask yourself, WHY am I doing what I am doing? Going to Church is good. IT IS NEEDED. Anytime we all come together, it is a beautiful necessity but you must take the time to regroup and take care of yourself and sometimes, for me (Mark 6:31), that day only falls on a Sunday. When does it fall for you? It is a holy experience when you intentionally reconnect not only with what you need most but with the One who provides ultimate rest.

Know what YOU need.

Jesus is your ultimate audience.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” -Matthew 11:29

 

Disappointment

I sat in the doctors office and looked my son in face, “It will be ok.” My words offered him little reassurance and I could tell. The doctor came back in and quietly said, “His hand is fractured.” She said words like “cast.” She said sentences like, “No sports activities for six weeks.” and “I am sorry but that means no more football.”

If you know my youngest son at all, this was a very hard moment. He has faithfully played football each Fall since he was five and has been waiting since then to be a Trojan AND start on the middle school team, but here were, three games in with more than that to go and he was out.

I was about to say, “It will be ok” once more but the look on his face warned me not to say a word. NOT. A. SINGLE. ONE. So we checked out and I drove him to one of his favorite places to eat for lunch hoping it would cheer him up. I realized as we sat in the doctors office, the four corners of that very small room closed in and quickly on my son. He had hoped for THIS and got THAT and disappointment was going to try to suck the very air out of his lungs, making it hard for him to breathe. Would he let it?

Weeks before, I sat at a church during a women conference and the speaker Friday night asked us to come forward and write down on a rock what we’ve been holding onto that has potentially been holding us back from God (and others). After we wrote it down, we were to walk up front and put it in the mock river the conferences design team creatively erected up front as a place for us to  “let go.” I often think request like these are hokey, but I obliged. I was one of the breakout speakers the following day and I wanted to be supportive and a team player, even if I thought deep down it was a ridiculous request. I stood up and a thousand thoughts went through my head and I scavenged the files in my heart. What would my word be because I had lots of words.

“What am I holding onto that I need to give to you Lord?”

And it was only one word but one from Him was all that was needed.

“Disappointment.”

I wrote that word on my rock and “let it go” in the river and felt nothing.

“SEE! These things are hokey.”

But later that night in bed, the Lord took me to the story in Acts 7 where Stephen, who loved Jesus so bravely, was stoned to death. I remember laying in bed that night as He said to me, “August, do you think perhaps Stephen thought things were going to go different for him? Do you think maybe he said to himself, “I really thought THIS, but now THAT is my reality.”

“August…do you think?”

I don’t remember much else of that night but I do know I woke up the next morning and told my husband I wanted us to try again. Indeed, disappointment had found a home in me in many different forms and they all had a name and a face. I thought things were going to look like THIS and indeed, they looked like THAT and over time, my heart wasn’t as open, as vibrant, as alive and I was dying inside. Worry and anxiousness resided inside my house and had taken up more space than I’d ever permissibly allow but there they were…hijacking my brain and my heart.

I am so thankful for Friday’s speaker. Holy Spirit can take and use ANYTHING and ANYBODY and had it not been for her, “Come forward and write what’s holding you under on this rock,” I might well still be drowning in my disappointment.

Ephesians 2:6 tells us that we are seated with Jesus in heavenly places and 2 Timothy 3 tells us that difficult times will come, THAT DISAPPOINTMENT WILL. We are not immune as followers of Christ. Somewhere along the way, I allowed my disappointment to take the throne where Jesus sat and it began to reign and rule over my heart and flooded me with unmet expectations and bitterness. Sure, I thought THIS and got THAT in a lot of areas this past year, but Jesus is still WHO He says He is.

Friends, if there is anything I have been learning in this season of my life it is this: Don’t dethrone Jesus and put yourself or anyone else in His seat. We are to sit WITH Him and are not to sit alone, AS Him. People will let us down, situations will come up that are not expected, like my son’s football injury. We will hurt. We will be disappointed. We will wish and hope for and sometimes, most times, it will look slightly different than we imagined. WISH and HOPE anyway. DREAM ALL DAY LONG. Just do it WITH Him.

If you are looking for perspective and understanding to the senseless, He’s got it. When things get muddled, He makes them clear. I do not know how He does it, I just know that He does. He indeed is good.

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

 

 

Know WHO Your People Are. 

My life is filled with amazing people and so not to make one sound more amazing than the other, BECAUSE WE KNOW WHAT THAT CAN DO, I’ll skip the identification process and leave you in a state of wonder.

I have one who will drop just about everything and anything and show up at your door if there is a need, announced or not, with food, a drink or a hug.

I have one who is a vivacious dreamer and they inspire me to think BIG and way outside my box and every time I am with them, they keep my eyes focused onward and upward.

I have one or five who are incredible listeners and I know I can sit with them and share real-life as it is and will be heard and not judged.

I have one who craves quality time and every time I am with them, I know they are 100% WITH me and they teach be how to practice being PRESENT.

I have helpers, grace givers, pray warriors, teachers, fixers and counselors. I have hard truth tellers whose words sometimes sting but are sincere and well-meaning and I have those who tell me what I want to hear when I want to hear it and their words help ease life’s stings, even if temporarily. I indeed have a plethora of people in my life who are full of amazing characteristics and qualities, each bearing their own unique gift to this great universe. Drowning? I have a friend for that.

But here’s what I’m finding. I’ve sat in a room with a fixer when I needed a good listener and have left feeling bypassed and manhandled by their good intentions. Likewise, life gets big every now and then and a big life brings with it big waves and I’ve gotten lost trying to navigate through the storms. During these times, I’ve felt that I was drowning and realize now, the last person I should have called upon for help was someone who doesn’t know how to swim or doesn’t want to get wet in choppy waters because of their own fears.

Expecting someone to show up and BE for me puts an unrealistic demand ON them. I get that. It’s the whole “We are responsibly TO people not FOR people” thing. No one can save me if I am drowning. No one can fix my problems. No one is ever going to fully and accurately hear my heart or make me feel valued or accepted.

But Jesus.

When I look you in the eyes and expect you to BE what and who I need or want in that moment is taxing and incredibly messy. I’m trying my best to hold each person I encounter in my empty hands, palms outstretched so they can flow in and out as they go. I’m learning to communicate what it is that I need or want instead of assuming that they know it.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  – George Bernard Shaw

I’m learning and learning takes practice.

But no matter how I try to not hold anyone up against the picture I have in my head, there IS this major component in a relationship where it’s important to KNOW one another. To know each other’s INS and OUTS. The places where we are each strong and adversely, not because we DO rely and depend on one another and if we pretend we don’t, we shortchange ourselves. Think of the Garden. Of Adam and Eve. Of Helpers and “It is not good for man to be alone.” Seriously, all of these amazing relationships in our lives are to look like something. They are to look like Someone.

The body of Christ.

And you cannot expect a hand to be a foot.

Secretly hoping it will be will leave you disappointed and disappointment leads to feeling rejected and offended.

This is why it is so important to KNOW WHO YOUR PEOPLE ARE…TO YOU. I absolutely believe we are called to love all people but we are not called to be in relationship with all people. Thinking that we can or should sets us all up to fail and I have tried. I cannot pour myself and my time in to everyone. When I do, we all stand in shallow waters which lacks depth and eventually I can’t keep up and I let people down. So instead of going wide, I’m trying to go deep. I’m discovering the importance of focusing on WHO is in my life in THIS season. This one, right now, because seasons change and we need to give each other permission TO change. I’ve gone in and out of people’s lives and watched them do the same and it’s not personal nor should be taken as such. The homecoming remains sweet when we return to one another when we keep our hands open and don’t hold on too tightly.

So friends, make the time to ask yourself the hard questions and understand what it is you need or want then have enough courage to communicate it. God has given you a slew of amazing Helpers as a gift so spend time with your people and listen to their hearts. Go after discovering their identity and what God has placed inside of them for you to access. BUT do not expect them to be who they are not and most certainly do not ask them to change for you. It only leads to disappointment and a cold heart.

Love them as is. It is how you keep your love active, alive and engaging. 

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

 

 

Progress

Advancement. Growth. Unfolding. Working. Process. Movement. Practice. Stepping.

These are all words I’ve used to describe life and though there are moments when I would use other words, I’d say I consistently choose these ones because they are all relatively positive and enough relatively positive moments mean something GOOD is taking place.

Life is.

But let’s not hung up on my word choices because I’ve seen word choices hang people up ** as in SHUT PEOPLE UP ** So let’s do this…before we go any further, posture yourself to hear my heart more than you hear my words because the last thing I’d want is to trip you up with mine. 

Ultimately, my words convey that I’m somewhere fluid and not just sitting stagnate, decaying in some corner sucking my thumb. I’m developing. I am a work in progress, like film taken from a camera that finds herself in a dark room for a short periods of time behind some closed door. But here’s the thing…the very best moments happen in the dark, like the development of life’s precious ones. 

For the last TWO WEEKS, I’ve been painting. To hear myself say those words, one would think I’ve painted my whole house, but that’s not the case. Not in the least. I have in fact painted my sons bedroom from top to bottom, some doors, a rocking chair and the start of a bench. I wanted to be done three days ago but I’ve found myself standing on my front porch at 7:45 PM more days than not and am tired of wearing crappy clothes and being adorned with grey, red and white hands. I’m slightly exhausted and ready to move on with regular living, but here I am, still painting. 

Why in the hell is this taking so long? 

Good question. 

For a bit yesterday, I began to feel bad, like l-o-s-e-r bad. Like I SHOULD have been done, I should have been THERE, but I’m not. I am HERE, still. And since thinking like that was getting me NO WHERE fast, I decided to think about Jesus who says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44 Sometimes, I am my own worst enemy. This is truth. Sometimes I don’t need your opinions of me, I have enough of my own. During times like this, when I start to feel the weight of my own expectations and that I should be further along than I am, I have to choose to step back and remember I AM making headway. I AM advancing, growing, unfolding, working…

I AM IN PROGRESS. 

Matthew 5:44 helps me remember to go easy, to let my enemy off the hook and remove the chains, even when I’m the continued culprit that places them there. It helps me remember to be kinder to myself because in the end, I am commanded to love my neighbor as myself and if I am being a little too hard HERE…won’t I also be little too hard THERE…with you?

YES. 

So I keep at it. Because really that’s all I have to do in this great life **I just need to keep at it** It’s the place between the starting line and the finish. It’s the place between where film is placed IN the camera and the picture is placed ON the wall. Ultimately it is one brutiful and ongoing conversation with Truth Himself…asking Him what is mine. 

You don’t need to be any place other than where you are at. – Jesus

Keep painting today my friends. At least keep takling what’s on your plate, on your mind and in your heart. I’m going to keep takling mine. If that’s all we get done today, it will be enough. 

 

Capsize

I used to think that if I trusted the Lord enough with my heart, I could withstand whatever came my way. And when I say withstand, I really mean “with ease”. I would not be as buffeted by the waves and the wind, I could still swim and not drown in a sea that was trying to consume me. I still believe this deep down but experience has taught me to approach life a little differently. Time spent with Jesus and time spent with others have shown me…steadily swimming, stepping, and standing looks like something. In fact, it looks like someone. I have a very big part in HOW I withstand.

I sat a couple of weeks ago in a circle of ladies, in a women’s group that I started over seven years ago, as we shared openly. We have cultivated an atmosphere of honesty, trust, and faithfulness and there I sat that particular morning, being partial and half in all of these things. Why? I was afraid to show up honest, being completely raw and naked in a space that I helped create to be just that. Why was I struggling with this?

Trust.

My “used to” way of thinking has come from experiences where I bared my soul and cracked myself wide open, not FOR them but FOR me, and found that not everyone is safe to do that with. Some have gossiped or shared or poked fun. Some have genuinely cared but had not the maturity and/or the knowledge to know what to do with it, to do with ME, and they mishandled my heart in ways that wound. NOT intentional I know. 

IS the person of Jesus enough in these places? Yes. Does He reach His hand into the water when I’m drowning? Yes. Does He walk me through and grow me regardless? Will He restore and heal? Yes. Does He love them just as much as He does me and care about their process just as much as He does mine? Well, yes.

I CAN trust Him that much.

But I no longer think my heart, and the contents of it, should be so casually or flippantly laid bare.

I’ve sat with the Lord a great deal since that morning and asked Him WHY I’ve come to guard my heart in such a way, as in protect. I realize I feel safer offering my heart in this sort of format, but not so much in that. Why?

Control. And control as I know it is rooted in fear.

If I open up and share my heart HERE…in a blog or some post and it goes out to the world then I’ve beat you all to the punch. There’s little to no intimacy required on my end even though I’ve given the appearance of depth…of being open and honest. I type, I click and I share. What you do with it then is really up to you, but I can step out of the picture and tarry on with my day. However, when I sit face to face and our eyes make contact I find myself in a place of intimacy and connection and the waters rise…there is nowhere to run. No where to tarry on to.

Sometimes I don’t know what to do there. It is harder to recover when things in THAT space become misaligned. Impossible, no. Harder, yes.

This knowledge is a double-edged sword right now in my mind and heart. I believe strongly in being open and honest. Open where you show up fully you, uninhibited and honest where you present your heart like an offering. I believe that when you do, His love is strong and wide enough to cover all sins…even sins against your gift of vulnerability…even YOUR sins. Sins like expectations that set others up for failure and you up for disappointment when responses are different than anticipated. 

BUT (here’s the other end of the sword) I also believe not every person is at a place in his or her life where they are to walk with you and your truth. Not everyone’s response is safe. Your boat should not rest in everyone’s harbor.

Sometimes I wonder outside of how I FEEL, what I truly believe in my core.

So I’ll end with this: I’m going to keep swimming, stepping and standing with Jesus. I’ll keep trying to show up ME, as open and as honest as I can in that moment, I won’t try to BE somewhere I am not. I’ll keep trusting that my heart is focused on the Lord and that through Him and His love, I’ll be shown how to best live this life through the lens of Love.

If there is a harbor, I want to abide in it regardless of wether I feel it is safe. His love capsizes me with grace to know He is with me in it and I just know if I keep choosing to show up, eventually I will.

Fully.

 

In Theory

For some strange reason, Saturday was rough for our youngest. She was all out of sorts and the way she was behaving, showed it. I think I could have been a bit more patient with her had Friday night NOT occurred. Yes. The pile of hardships is growing.

Friday night there was spider in her room, and not just any spider but an elusive spider. Heaven forbid we’d go to bed knowing there was a spider, somewhere in the room and so…for the first time in YEARS our youngest slept in the middle of our bed because there were tears and screams and this all led to a NOT good Saturday.

I’ve given up understanding. I don’t want to know. Whatever man. Get into bed.

So Saturday. I won’t even go into it BECAUSE I JUST CAN’T, but I about lost myself altogether and in the midst, all I wanted to do was send this child and her ginormous fit to her room. And I did. “Go to your room and stay there till the end of the day.” 

It was 11:00 AM

I wanted the situation out of my mind so I put my daughter out of my sight.

Because you know what? I had my own stuff and I was tired and frustrated.

Friends, I am done giving the world the right or “good” answer. This is my honest one.

Then I sat downstairs in the office and my entire house was quiet indeed, too quiet, and that silence washed over me something terribly awful. This was not at all what I wanted to do. Sometimes I curse, as in, “Damn it. Jesus, you are SO good to me. Even when I show up all tired and frustrated and clearly, not-so-great…you stay. You don’t leave. You don’t send me to my room. You remain. Damn it.”

Sometimes grace is a bitter pill to swallow and sometimes, unconditional love, love that does not demand that you change…harder yet.

So in theory…what is for Him and I can be for others and me…Right? Isn’t that how this whole three-person relationship “in theory” works?

We’ll see.

So I called her down. I bent my knees and lowered my voice. It wasn’t trying to make quiet, it just was. My settled heart longed for relationship. No matter what.

We went for lunch. She sat quiet, sad and ashamed. By the middle of lunch she had moved closer. By the end, her arms were around my waist and her head tucked up against my chest.

Jesus.

She’s ten and I’m her Mom. That “Let’s see if this works” seemed easy but I have other, much bigger relationships that I’m not quite sure how “in theory” would apply. Bigger relationships? Aren’t they all? Oh to listen to your own self speak…

Honest…I’ve been hurt. I don’t know if I am willing to say, “Here’s my heart. Draw close. Spend time with it so you can hurt it ALL OVER AGAIN.” Yeah. I am not sure I am ready **willing** to do that again.

So I’m talking to Jesus about trust. Why am I not trusting HIM here, in THIS place? If I am out to give you honest and I show up vulnerable and you betray my trust in some way, would I stop fully showing up? Maybe. Probably. Yes. I’d somehow adjust. I’d not want to, but reality is I’d transform somehow if history lends itself to be accurate because if I show up and you don’t, then we get stuck in this vicious cycle of circle around…repeat. What kind of “relationship” is that anyway? **RECIPROCITY** You do for me, I do for you and so forth and so on.

But I know differently…

If the person of Jesus is not just some theology to theorize and He literally shows up in my house, at my door, and sits across from me at my desk while my house sits all quiet and nice and pulls me close and says, “GO GET HER,” and I say “NO. GET OUT OF MY HOUSE. I CANNOT. WILL NOT…”

Even if I said “YES,” becuase my head assocaites the request with ease because she’s young and small and somehow simpler…

Couldn’t my bigger, more difficult relationships kind of go the same? “GO GET THEM.”

“ALRIGHT JESUS.” And off I go…

I am not there. WHY am I not there? I don’t know…

Perhaps I don’t want to.

I can’t be somewhere I’m not. Honest.

 

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